Hugh Elliot

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The Right Honourable
Hugh Elliot
Hugh Elliot.png
Governor of the Leeward Islands
In office
Governor of Madras
In office
Personal details
Born (1752-04-06)6 April 1752
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 1 December 1830(1830-12-01) (aged 78)[1]
Somerset Street, London
Resting place Westminster Abbey, London
Spouse(s) Charlotte Louisa von Kraut (1778–1783)
Margaret Jones (−1819)
Parents Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Baronet, of Minto
Agnes Dalrymple-Murray-Kynymound
Profession Diplomat

Hugh Elliot (1752–1830) was a British diplomat and then a colonial governor.

Education and early career

Hugh Elliot was born on 6 April 1752, the second son of Sir Gilbert Elliot, and the younger brother of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto. Hugh and Gilbert were educated together, first by private tutor, and later between 1764 and 1766 in Paris, where they were mentored by Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume and where Hugh struck up a friendship with Count Mirabeau. In 1768, at the age of 16, Hugh entered Christ Church, University of Oxford, but left after only two years to complete his military education at Metz.

After that, at the still young age of 18, Hugh Elliot took a commission in the Russian army as an officer, and fought in the campaign against the Turks in the Balkans. According to family papers, at one point Elliot was forced to swim in the Danube holding on to the tail of a horse ridden by a Cossack.

Diplomatic career

At 21, largely through his father's influence, he took up a diplomatic post as the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the Duchy of Bavaria. Four years later, he was named as the British ambassador to Frederick the Great in Prussia. He developed a reputation as a great social wit, but worked hard to defeat the entreaties of American diplomats during the American Revolutionary War (including, allegedly, at one point stealing the American dispatch box and copying its contents).

In Berlin he married his first wife, Charlotte von Kraut, but when she committed adultery he challenged her lover to a duel. He himself was wounded in the duel, but received a written apology from his protagonist. The scandal was to later haunt him during his career, and is most often cited as the reason why, despite an exceptional career in the diplomatic service, he never received the customary knighthood.

Elliot then served in Copenhagen 1782–1791, during which time his reputation soared as he was credited for stopping war between Sweden and Denmark, and for helping Gustav III reintroduce absolutism in Sweden. Shortly after arriving at Copenhagen, he heard reports of the continued infidelity of his wife, who had remained in Berlin with their daughter. He decided that he would not allow their child to stay with her mother, and managed to personally carry out an abduction of her from Berlin, and bring her back to Copenhagen with him.[2]

In 1792, Elliot was named as British ambassador to the Electorate of Saxony in Dresden. Shortly prior to that he married his second wife, Margaret Jones, who was 20 years his junior.

In 1803 Elliot was sent to Naples which was then the capital of the Kingdom of Naples, where he survived in tempestuous circumstances until his recall in 1806. After his recall, the family endured a period of considerable financial hardship when no postings were found for the diplomat for a period of three years.

But upon the death of Lord Lavington, Elliot was appointed to serve as Governor of the Leeward Islands in the British West Indies from 1809 to 1814.

Elliot was a noted abolitionist. Whilst Governor of the Leeward islands, he was reported to be the driving force behind the arrest, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge for the murder of a slave in the British Virgin Islands. His brother-in-law, Lord Auckland presented the bill which would become the Slave Trade Act 1807 before the House of Lords.

In 1814, he was made a Privy Counsellor. From 1814 to 1820, Elliot was Governor of Madras.

Lady Elliot Island in Queensland, Australia is named for the Governor's wife.


Elliot married twice:[3]

1) in 1778 divorced 1783, Charlotte von Kraut with one daughter

  • Isabella Elliot (married George Payne 1810, died 1826)

2) in cir 1792, Margaret Jones (died 2 March 1819), with nine children:

  • Theodore Henry Elliot (died 2 April 1842)
  • Emma Elliot (died 10 August 1866), who married Sir Thomas Hislop, 1st Baronet
  • Edward Francis Elliot (died 11 June 1866)
  • Caroline Elliot
  • Hugh Maximilian Elliot (cir 1798 – died 1 January 1826 Calcutta, India[4])
  • Harriet Agnes Elliot
  • Gilbert Elliot (17 Mar 1800 – 11 August 1891)
  • Charles Elliot (1801-9 Sep 1875)
  • Thomas Frederick Elliot (15 Jul 1808 – 12 February 1880)

Elliot died at his home in Somerset Street, London on 1 December 1830 shortly after retiring to bed, and was buried, with his brother, at Westminster Abbey[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gilbert and Hugh Elliot". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 15 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Chr. B. Reventlow (ed.), En Dansk Statsmands Hjem omkring Aar 1800, volume 1, Copenhagen, 1902, p. 80-81. The letters of countess Sophie Reventlow in Danish.
  3. Scott, H. M. "Elliot, Hugh". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8664.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. The Quarterly Oriental Magazine, Review & Register , December 1825 issue records among deaths "At Calcutta on the 1st of January at the house of Richard Hunter, esq. in Chowringhee, Hugh Maximilian Elliot, esq. fourth son of the Right Honorable Hugh Elliot, late Governor of Fort William"


External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lewis de Visme
British Minister to Bavaria
Succeeded by
Morton Eden
Preceded by
James Harris
British Minister to Prussia
Succeeded by
The Earl of Cholmondeley
Preceded by
Morton Eden
British Minister to Denmark
Succeeded by
Daniel Hailes
Preceded by
Morton Eden
British Minister to Saxony
Succeeded by
Henry Williams-Wynn
Preceded by
William Drummond
British Minister to the Two Sicilies
Succeeded by
Gen. Henry Edward Fox
Government offices
Preceded by
Lord Lavington
Governor of the Leeward Islands
Succeeded by
Sir James Leith
Preceded by
John Abercromby
Governor of Madras
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
(of Lindertis)
Succeeded by
Thomas Munro